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Social Research

Introduction to Qualitative Research


What is social research? Research orientations Differences between qualitative and quantitative research Introduction to research methods Applications of social research

What is Social Research?

Social research is the study of social phenomena: immersion in the everyday life of the setting chosen for study; values participants perspectives on their worlds; views inquiry as an interactive process between the researcher and the participants; is both descriptive and analytic; and relies on peoples words and observable behavior as the primary data.

Research orientations
Three approaches to research:

Positivist: Reality is stable, observable, and measurable. Knowledge can be gained by scientific and experimental study. Interpretive: Reality is composed of lived experience. Knowledge can be gained by understanding meanings, processes and experiences through systematic inquiry. Critical: Reality is constructed through hegemonic institutions. Knowledge can be gained by participatory research that generates a critique of power, privilege, and oppression within such institutions.

Qualitative/ Quantitative
Point of comparison Qualitative Research Quantitative Research

Focus Roots Descriptors Goal

Quality (nature, essence) Constructivism Fieldwork, ethnography Understanding, description, hypothesis generation
Flexible, emergent, evolving Small, nonrandom, purposeful, theoretical Researcher is instrument. Interviews, participant observation, document review Inductive Comprehensive, descriptive.

Design Sample Data collection Mode of analysis Findings

Quantity (how much or many?) Positivism, empiricism Experiments, statistical Prediction, control, hypothesis testing Predetermined, structured Large, random, representative
Inanimate instruments. Surveys, scales, tests Deductive Precise, numerical

Interview Survey


observation Document review Video recording Participatory and action research

Applications of research

Studies of implementation: R&D Longitudinal studies: Summative findings Profiles and case studies: Focused studies of single/multiple sites Policy and advocacy Publication: peer-reviewed presentations and publications

Keyword Quiz

Lived experience: Meaning making: Insider/emic perspective: Relationship Vs. cause: Comprehensive Vs. precise: Understanding Vs. prediction: Inductive Vs. deductive:

If the researcher is the instrument

What are important characteristics of a researcher?


The researcher is the instrument

Tolerance for ambiguity as the person and study adjust to the realities of the field. Sensitivity to context, people, and insights from early data, allowing for flexibility. Good communicator as interaction with people is the primary source of data collection. Empathy, neutrality (as much as possible), and an atmosphere of trust are critical.